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Client: National Parks Magazine.
Story: Cherokee Nation Remember the Removal Memorial Ride.
Tayla Wilnoty and Shayahshe Littledave join hands with the group to pray before they start their ride from Hopkinsville, Kentucky to Mantle Rock.
The riders final stop of the day was at Berry's Ferry, named for the ferry operator, John Berry, who operated a crossing from Smithland, Kentucky to Golconda, Illinois.
Remember the Removal is an annual bicycle ride commemorating the removal of 12,000 Cherokee who were forced to give up their ancestral lands east of the Mississippi River and migrate to new homes in "Indian Territory", an area in present-day Oklahoma.
Mentor riders lead young Cherokee citizens on a ride spanning 950 miles and seven states from New Echota, Georgia to the Cherokee Nation’s current capital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The riders retrace the history, heritage, language and culture of their ancestors along the route called the Trail of Tears.
During the winter of 1838-39, Cherokee from the Peter Hildebrand Detachment, one of the final migrations, were forced to march on foot through frozen and thawed mud roads, which made walking difficult and dangerous. Thousands boarded ferries to cross the Ohio River. But in December of 1838, a hash winter created moving ice along the river preventing ferry crossings, and they were forced to wait for two weeks for the river to become passable. They sought shelter in scattered encampments southeast of the crossing on the Kentucky side. Some sought refuge under the bluffs of a large sandstone bridge spanning 188 feet and 30 feet high. The area is now known as Mantle Rock Preserve.
But the extreme cold caused many, who were ailing and neither properly clothed nor equipped for a long harsh journey. Hundreds died during the ordeal, brought about by the passage of the 1830 Federal Indian Removal Act.